Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hipsters Galore

There's been a lot of talk regarding this semispecific species of early twenty-first century urban dweller who forms a large percentage of the fashionista, trendster, and scenester groups. The reason why it's so hard to pinpoint what's going on with hipsters is that there are so many of them who either explicitly deride the idea of being a hipster or are generally just pretending to be one. As with people who self-identify with hiphop culture or greaser culture, the hipster movement has its trailblazers, followers, and wannabes. The people at the forefront of the movement don't need to claim the hipster label because they are too busy creating and coming up with the future of the movement. Yet, there's so many people who mimic the manner of dress, hairstyle, speech affectation to give them a sense of social belonging.

Since this category is so broad, it's fairly ridiculous to declare a hatred for all hipsters. I personally am not that adept at subsuming myself to some large social movement, so I could never find ultimate solace in harboring hipster hankerings. Yet, I definitely do identify with hipsters much more so than lots of other people I know who really do despise them and avoid talking to them at all costs. The thing is, it's so fun to blame hipsters for being too elitist and fashion-conscious in the process of being egalitarian or tolerant. But, at the end of the day, cultural relativism only goes so far if you aim to discover superior cultural goods.

Devandra Banhardt isn't quite my favorite musician, but I can get down with that stuff. I like to think I have a diverse range of musical tastes. Well, another thing about hipsterdom is that it really includes so much different musical history (punk, glam rock, electro, folk) that it's impossible to narrow the broad social grouping to one genre. And, honestly, much of the time, hipster should be used as a label for a professional class of people who are involved concretely in doing and selling hipster thangs. However, the label describes the fashion sense, the social preferences, the vocabulary, etc. Though these types do often make solid use of their parents' economic status, there seem to be plenty of grimy, blue-collar hipsters that live in seedier settings than their hipster comrades who are bourgeois-boheme but in denial of this heritage. Maybe hipsters are just latter-day hippies in that, ultimately, all of their counterculture just gets subsumed into the massive corporate-driven spectacle that we operate.


scullin said...

I believe hipsters are more specific breed than you may claim, as they are as old as the beatniks of the 1950's and the use of the word hipster dates to their era. I believe, Dr. Pivronian, that you confuse or at least convolute those who are 'hip,' ie cutting edge and creative, with 'hipsters,' who are unaware of their hipsterdom and in fact can do nothing to prevent it. People do not strive ot be hipsters; they strive to be hip, and that's what makes that person a hipster. A hipster is a person who is trying to be someone 'cooler' than they actually are while at the same time attempting to be different from mainstream society; the result is someone who falls into a new category rather than no category at all-- they form a new social movement, as you said. We call this new category 'hipster.' They may look, act, and think differently than mainstream society, but are fairly homogeneous within the category (however, to their credit, their look, actions, and thoughts are generally more interesting than those of society's). The bingo game attempts to mock this by illustrating all of the anti-mainstream objects of hipsterdom which are in reality as cliched within the hipster category as objects such as an old ratty baseball cap, banana republic sweater, football jersey, or north face jacket are in mainstream society. Hipsters like to deny that they are hipsters because they want to deny this very categorization.

There is often a fine line between people who are 'hip' and who are just hipsters, and they are often ostensibly indistinguishable. What differentiates the two is that a 'hip' person cannot be placed in a category, as such would contradict their very hipness (therein lies the difficulty of defining what it means to be hip). As an example, take for instance the multitude of bands beginning with 'The' which sound and look the same; these are truly hipster bands. Then consider the very musicians they are attempting to emulate, those who do not need Vans and indie-rock haircuts to gain a following; these would indeed be hip people, and can come in any form.

What annoys people about hipsters is the fact that hipsters do believe they are culturally elite, while often times hipsters merely subscribe to a different culture than the next person that is just as well defined as one that is more mainstream. Hipster thus connotes something bad since it not only means one who can be categorized, but one who is a snob at that.

Mike said...

Wonderfully written, Scullonian. No complaints here.

benpiven said...

sono d'accordo SPAGHETTO

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